Dogs with allergies seem to be more common than not these days. And dog allergies are not pretty, in fact, they can be miserable for both the dog and the owner.
Food allergies can sometimes be confused with food intolerance, as symptoms may be similar. However, food intolerance is the result of poor digestion, whereas a food allergy will trigger an immune response.
[To read in more detail about digestion and the immune system’s response to allergens in dogs - check out this great article from Modern Dog Magazine.]
Symptoms of dog allergies can vary, but generally speaking symptoms will include itching, flaking and irritation of the skin. Skin irritation can result in skin infections (due to scratching, biting and licking), and or ear infections. Other symptoms may include gastrointestinal upset (vomiting, diarrhea, excessive gas, etc.).
Dog allergies may be difficult to diagnose. Generally after ruling out any other illness or problem, your veterinarian will begin the process of treating the allergies with a food trial or elimination diet. If your dog’s symptoms improve the diagnosis of a food allergy can be confirmed.
Most dog allergies are caused by proteins in the food they eat. Both plant and animal proteins can cause allergic reactions. The most common sources are chicken, beef, dairy and wheat. It is interesting to note that the development of food allergies takes time. Allergies can start even if the dog has been on the same diet for months, even years.
If your veterinarian decides to start a food trial, or elimination diet, he or she will most likely recommend beginning a hypoallergenic diet. One option is to introduce a new protein source, something your dog has not been exposed to. Popular options include duck and pea, venison and potato, fish and oatmeal, etc. As you can see, most of these “novel” diets will include one protein and one carbohydrate.
Another option when starting a hypoallergenic diet is to utilize a food with hydrolyzed protein. The protein in these diets are broken down into very small, easily digestible molecules. This generally prevents the immune system from identifying the protein as an allergen.
When dog’s are placed on an elimination diet it is extremely important that they do not receive any additional food, treats or table scraps that may include any protein other than the ones in the new diet. Even medication, especially flavored medications may compromise the trial diet.
[Golden Gate Veterinary Compounding Pharmacy routinely compounds dog medication into Hypoallergenic Chews/Capsules/Suspensions. Talk to our pharmacy staff about how we can help your dog adhere to even the strictest diets.]
Dealing with dog allergies can be exhausting. It may take several trials to figure out exactly what is causing your dog’s symptoms. However, because of how common dog allergies are these days, your veterinarian and dog food manufacturers are equipped to help even the toughest cases.